May 29, 2005
After the storm, avoid driving through puddled rainwater. Here's why:
Engine intake system. Water in the intake system ultimately gets into the cylinders, in which pistons compress air. But water doesn't compress, and the resulting pressure inside the engine can bend piston rods or crack the engine block. Either essentially ruins the engine.
Transmission. Water makes the gears slip.
Brakes. If the rotors are extremely hot, exposure to water can warp them. The result is your car will vibrate when you try to brake, particularly at higher speeds. In addition, water may get into the brake lines and cause brake failure immediately or later, when you least expect it.
Interiors. Water in the driver and passenger compartment ruins carpets, upholstery and the foam in the seats.
Electronic systems. Many manufacturers install automobile computers in the floorboards and under the seats. Water damage to these components can result in all sorts of electrical and electronic problems.
If your car is flooded, here are some tips:
Check with your insurance agent to verify extent of coverage before repairs begin.
If your car stalled because of flooding, have a mechanic look at it before you restart it. A car might start up after a dousing, but problems with certain systems -- water in brake lines, for instance -- might not show up until later and cause dangerous failures while you're driving.
The engine, transmission, brakes and power steering are the most vulnerable systems. Electrical systems also are extremely subject to damage, and water-sensitive components might need to be replaced.
At the very least, oil and filters need to be changed; the oil pan is usually the lowest portion of an engine, and water may have seeped in.
If you clean the wet interior of a car yourself, take out all the carpeting and let it dry thoroughly. Damp carpet left in cars can cause rust months later. Keep in mind that some parts of a car are virtually inaccessible to the average car owner. Door locks, window regulators, wiring harnesses and heating and air-conditioning components often are tucked into small spaces and can fail at later dates.
Restoring a car severely damaged by a flood might not be cost-effective. Check the market value of your car against the estimated repair bill before authorizing any work.
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